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Island County shoreline meeting planned

The public has another chance to weigh in on Island County’s recently adopted shoreline master program.

A hearing is planned tomorrow in Coupeville.

Adopted by the Board of Island County Commissioners late last year, the plan must gain approval from the state Department of Ecology before it can go into effect. Ecology is seeking public comments and will hold an open house and hearing Wednesday, May 1.

The open house begins at 6 p.m. It will be followed at 7 p.m. by the public hearing, a legal proceeding in which comments are recorded.

The open house and hearing will be held in the Commissioner’s Hearing Room, 1 N.E. Sixth St..

Shoreline master programs, which are required under state law, guide development along the waterfront. Island County’s proposed program applies to 210 miles of marine and fresh water shorelines.

The county commissioners wrapped up an exhaustive two-year effort to update the program this past December. They approved the plan in a 2-1 vote.

While several issues were hotly debated during the update process, among the most discussed concerned rules for non-native, fin-fish net pens.

The board banned net pens outright and the decision is a source of heartburn for state Ecology regulators. Ecology has long held the position that net pens are a preferred water-dependent use and cannot be outlawed.

Environmental activists such as Steve Erickson, of Whidbey Environmental Action Network, says the upcoming meeting may be decisive as enough public comment could sway Ecology decision makers.

“Of course we’ll be there,” Erickson said. “It’s real important.”

Should state Ecology change its position, it could have a ripple effect on master programs in other counties, among them Jefferson County, which includes Port Townsend.

Jefferson County’s plan also includes a ban on net pens, but approval by state Ecology has been held up for years.

Erickson said he’s hopeful that enough public comment will turn the tide, but added he is not optimistic.

“We’re expecting this to go to court.”

Ecology officials will be accepting public comment on Island County’s program until 5 p.m., Friday, May 24.

Comments on the plan can be addressed to David Pater, Department of Ecology, 3190 160th Ave. S.E., Bellevue, 98008.

Comments can also be submitted to Pater by email at david.pater@ecy.wa.gov, or by calling him at 425-649-4253.

 

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